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INTRODUCTION

The civilisation of Ancient Egypt lasted for over three thousand years. During this time the religious beliefs remained largely unchanged with the notable exception of the period of Aten-worship during the eighteenth dynasty under Akhenaten. Even more remarkable, the mythology, for the most part, reveals itself as already fully-formed when the first Hieroglyphic writing in which it is recorded emerged in the period prior to the first dynasty.

This pantheon consisted principally in animal-gods represented in the iconography as animal-headed men and women in which the head represented the identity of the deity while the divine attributes became incorporated into the body. Thus there were the familiar hawk-headed Horus and jackal-headed Anubis, the ibis-headed Thoth and the others. Notable exceptions, however, were the important deities, Re and Osiris, who emerged at the time of the third and fifth dynasties respectively.

Re was the sun-god and underwent several transformations during the course of his daily passage through the sky and through the Underworld at night. He became Atum at sunset, Flesh-of-Re during the night and Khepri at dawn before returning to his day form, Re.

Osiris was a deity of fully human appearance who suffered a death and was credited with a form of resurrection which in many ways prefigures that of Christ. Certainly in his resurrected form, Osiris became the judge and ruler of the dead.

Creation myths abounded in the Egyptian mythology. Interestingly, the apparent contradictions between these various beliefs were likely to trouble the Egyptian mind much less than they do that of modern man. For example, the deities Re, Atum, Ptah, Neith and a mysterious group of eight primordial beings known as the Ogdoad were variously believed to have been responsible for the Creation itself or at least the origin of man. However, these conflicting views were not seen to be contradictory by the Egyptian tradition which was one of compromise and reconciliation. Thus these rival claims were either assimilated one with another or else allowed to stand beside each other as alternative truths. They therefore served as different aspects of a central mystery.

Similarly, the identity of the supreme god varied from place to place and from time to time. Re, Atum, Amun, Ptah have all at times been considered paramount in this way. Indeed, the cult of Osiris was so firmly based that the sacred texts describing the night journey of the sun-god, Re, through the Underworld place Osiris rather than Re as king of that Underworld. Re, in fact, passes from sunset to sunrise through the kingdom of the resurrected Osiris.

The three main sacred texts describing this journey are to be found inscribed on the interior walls within rock-cut tombs of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom such as that of Rameses VI. They are the Book of Gates, the Book of Am Duat, and the Book of Caverns. Other texts exist such as the Book of Night and Day and there are many individual spells to be found on papyri from burials of nobles and commoners alike. These spells are collectively known as The Book of the Dead. It is from these sources, principally, that the material for this present book derives.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that after death the self survived as a complex of three spirit forms. With life gone from the khat or body, the ba or 'soul of movement' and the ka or 'soul of sustenance' manifested themselves. The third spirit form, the akh, was thought of as the totality of the transfigured self and possessed the divine power to transform itself into different modes of existence.

The ba, demonstrating both the identity of the individual and the attribute of mobility, took the form of a human head on the body of a bird while the ka was considered the double of the person concerned. It was through this spirit form that sustenance for the whole complex was maintained.

From texts such as the Book of Night and Day alternative descriptions of the passage of the sun from dusk to dawn arise -- in this case along and through the naked body of the sky goddess, Nut, conceived as arching overhead and forming the firmament.

As well as the three descriptions of the Underworld in the three sacred texts there was also a multiplicity of paradises for the Ancient Egyptian. Roughly comparable to the Elysean Fields was a watery paradise: The Field of Reeds. The horizon was also thought of as the destination of righteous souls after death. But an echo of a still earlier belief system placed a heaven among the circumpolar stars which circle the celestial north pole in such a way as never to rise or set.

The priests of the different cult centres in Egypt were able to reconcile these conflicting theologies, creation myths, paradises and visions of hell. In fact, it is in no small measure due to their relative success in this endeavour that the religion of these ancients remained as the stable heart of such a long-lived and cohesive civilisation.

These patterns of belief of the Ancient Egyptians were formerly only accessible to later scholars through Greek and Roman writers contemporary with the later dynasties. As such these were second-hand accounts. This was because the various scripts used by the Egyptians were not translated until after the discovery of the Rosetta stone by Napoleonic troops. This remarkable tablet bears parallel Greek and Hieroglyphic texts and thus formed the basis for the decipherment of the Egyptian written language.

These then are the myths and ancient religious beliefs which have formed the basis for the present book -- a work of imagination composed in the twentieth century.

Reaching back to these past currents of thought has required the assistance of modern-day scholarship and the present writer wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Dr Stephen Quirke of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum who has spent time both advising on the Egyptian mythology and later checking the manuscript for mythological accuracy while under a heavy work load of his own.


NOTES
(in the order they occur in the text)

Montu: Hawk-headed war god of Thebes.
Horus: Son of Isis and Osiris. Hawk-headed god identified with the ka of the pharaoh. Avenged the death of Osiris by prolonged battle with Seth.
Thoth: Ibis-headed god of wisdom and writing. Assists at judgement of the dead.
Atum: Form of the sun-god at sunset. Atum takes the form of an old man leaning on a stick.
Apis Bull: Sacred bull of Ptah.
Re: Sun-god. Creator god according to most prominent myth. Undergoes daily journey through the skies and into the Underworld during which Re is successively transformed into the following deities: Atum, Flesh-of-Re, Khepri and again Re. Chief deity of The Ennead. Father of Shu and Tefnut.
Unas: Fifth dynasty pharaoh possessing a prominent pyramid tomb in which wall texts describe him eating the gods.
Sais: City of the Delta on Rosetta branch of the Nile. Modern-day Sa El-Hagar.
Duat: Ancient Egyptian Underworld. Three different descriptions of the Underworld are provided by the three sacred texts: The Book of Caverns, The Book of Am Duat and The Book of Gates.
Maidens of the Hours: Goddesses of the Underworld responsible for each hour of the journey of Flesh-of-Re.
Rosetjau: Mythical site of entry into the Underworld. Originally the name of the royal necropolis at Giza.
Night Barque: The sacred boat upon which Flesh-of-Re travels through the Underworld. Also known as Barque of Re, Solar Barque, etc. The daytime journey takes place in the Day Barque.
Opening of the Mouth: Funerary ceremony performed on inanimate objects such as coffins, statues or the dead themselves and designed to 'open the mouth' and enable them to receive sustenance for life.
Khat: Body of individual after death.
Ka: The double or 'soul of sustenance' -- one of three souls of Ancient Egyptian belief.
Ba: The Ancient Egyptian 'soul of mobility'. In funerary texts the ba is shown in the form of a human-headed bird.
Akh: Third soul of the Ancient Egyptians -- the illuminating principle.
Sem-priest: Officiant at funerary rites depicted wearing a panther skin robe.
Shabti-figures: Figurines buried with the mummy which are meant to accompany the departed after death and do work for the soul.
Field of Reeds: One of several paradises of Ancient Egypt. An earthly paradise like the Elysian Fields.
Anubis: Jackal-headed god of mummification.
Djed-column: Cult symbol of stability. The appearance is of a tree trunk with four short-cut horizontal branches on either side. The djed-column is said to represent the backbone of Osiris.
Osiris: Prominent deity within the Ennead. Son of Geb and Nut. Brother and husband of Isis and father of their son, Horus. Osiris was god of vegetation and rebirth but was murdered by Seth. Importantly he was god of the Underworld and judge of the dead.
Isis: Wife and sister of Osiris and sister of Nephthys and Seth. Conceived Horus from the dead body of Osiris while she was in the form of a kite-bird. Revived Osiris and protected Horus as a child until he was old enough to do battle with Seth and avenge his father Osiris.
Seth: Red, war-like and wrathful god. Murderer of his brother Osiris. Husband of his own sister: Nephthys. Fought Horus and was eventually forced to give up the kingship. Said to have torn himself from his own mother's womb at birth.
Two lands: The kingdom of the two lands is a way of describing Upper and Lower Egypt after their unification.
Was-sceptre: Pharaonic symbol of kingship.
Festival of the lamps: Night festival which took place in Sais where lamps were placed about the citizens' dwellings.
Nun: Chaotic primeval waters from which the creator god emerged. See also: Amun and Amaunet, Eightfold writhing differences.
Neith: Female creator god according to one myth. Neith gave birth to herself. She also gave birth to Apopis sometimes known as The Spittle of Neith.
Ennead: The name of the group of nine principal gods according to the most prominent creation myth. First generation: Re (Atum); second generation: Shu and Tefnut; third generation: Geb and Nut; fourth generation: Osiris, Seth, Isis, Nephthys.
Shu: God of air and light. See Tefnut.
Khnemu: Ram-headed god associated with the Nile cataracts. Controller of the annual inundation.
Tefnut: Goddess of mist. Shu and Tefnut were created in the Nun by their father Atum or Re.
Geb: God of the earth. Son of Shu and Tefnut. Consort of Nut.
Nut: Goddess of the sky, particularly the night sky. She is very beautiful and the stars appear along her naked body. She is said to swallow the sun at sunset and give birth to it at dawn. Mother of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.
Bennu bird: A phoenix-like bird. The Bennu was the ba of Re.
Atef crown: Crown particular to Osiris and characteristically flanked by twin plumes.
Nephthys: Sister of Isis, wife of brother Seth, one-time lover of brother Osiris. Assisted Isis in evading the wrath of Seth after his murder of Osiris.
Emmer: Ancient Egyptian species of wheat.
Sia: God of Perception personified.
Hu: God of the Word personified.
Ptah: Creator god according to a myth centred upon Memphis. God of crafts.
Barque of Re: see Night Barque.
Underworld: See Duat.
Khepri: Form of the sun-god at dawn. Khepri takes the form of a scarab beetle. At times referred to as 'The Becoming'.
Sekhmet: Lion-headed goddess.
Nefertum: God of perfume.
Assessor Gods: The forty-two gods who attend at the weighing of the heart ceremony and who assess the soul of a dead person as he professes his innocence.
Judgement of the dead: Ceremony taking place in the sixth hour of the Duat in which the heart is weighed against the feather of Maat (truth). The Assessor Gods hear the profession of innocence and Osiris presides overall.
Tatenen: God symbolising the emergence of the fertile Nile silt after the inundation.
Seker: Hawk-headed god of the Underworld. More accurately god of another underworld within the Underworld. Seker is thought of as the personification of the despairing cry of Osiris.
Hathor: Fierce cow-headed goddess. Often assimilated to other goddesses such as Isis or Sekhmet.
Manu: Mythical western mountain of the sunset.
Udjat: Eye of Horus restored after being injured by Seth. The udjat eye is therefore a symbol of perfection.
Min: God of fertility and of rainstorms.
Decans: Thirty-six star groups from which the passage of time was measured.
Unwearying Stars: Stars which rise and set as normal. Such stars are thought to accompany Flesh-of-Re in the Underworld. Among these stars are the decans.
Imperishable Stars: The circumpolar stars of the northern sky. Such stars are so close to the pole that they do not rise or set (cf. 'The Plough' or 'Big Dipper' in contemporary skies). They represent a paradise available to the pharaohs and the gods.
Punt: Fabled southern land probably near to present-day Somalia.
Bakhu: Mythical mountain of the sunrise.
Ptah-Tatenen: Assimilated form of the gods Ptah and Tatenen.
Mound: Feature of one of the Egyptian creation myths. The earth emerges from the Nun as a mound -- just as islands are seen to appear in the Nile following the inundation.
Sons of Horus: Hapy, Imsety, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef. Four gods who appear widely throughout the mythology. Their heads appear on canopic jars of human viscera at mummification. They also represent the cardinal points, north, south, east and west. Their tresses are meant to keep up the four corners of heaven. They appear with Osiris at the judgement of the dead.
Ureaus: Cobra with erect hood showing arousal.
Amemet: Devouring monster of the Underworld. Amemet eats the souls of the guilty.
Maat: Goddess of order, truth and rightfulness.
Solar Barque: See Night Barque, Barque of Re.
Meretseger: Serpent goddess worshipped near the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes.
Byblos: Ancient Mediterranean seaport situated at what is now Jubayl in Lebanon.
Apopis: The Ancient Egyptian personification of evil. Apopis is a huge serpent in the Underworld who attacks Flesh-of-Re but is defeated by him. Apopis is first encountered in the waters of Nun where he represents darkness and chaos. According to another myth Apopis is the offspring of Neith and is known as the 'Spittle of Neith'.
Hapi: God of the Nile.
The Becoming: See Khepri.
Atum-Re: Assimilated form of the two gods Atum and Re.
Aker: Lion-headed god of the Underworld. Represented as twin-headed: facing both the sunset and the dawn.
Sobek: Crocodile god.
Naos-canopy: Canopy on the Barque of Re protecting Flesh-of-Re. The canopy is protected by the body of the serpent, Mehen.
Coming forth into day: The idea of the earthly wandering of the ka-soul after death.
Scarab: Egyptian dung-beetle. Symbol of re-birth of the sun and therefore of Khepri, the form of the sun-god at dawn.
River of Urnes: River of the Underworld.
Flesh-of-Re: Form of the sun-god in his travels through the Underworld. Dead form of Re depicted as a standing, ram-headed man.
The Steersman: The pilot of the Barque of Re.
Mehen: serpent covering the naos-canopy of the Barque of Re.
Ba-souls of Pe, Ba-souls of Nekhen: Souls of primordial, pre-dynastic pharaohs of Upper and Lower Egypt said to act as protectors of the incumbent pharaoh.
Mut: Theban mother goddess. Consort of Amun.
The Opener of the Ways: See Wepwawet.
The Lady of the Barque: The Maiden of the Hour specific to each particular cave or hour.
Dance of the Muu: Ritual dance performed at the tombside which conjures up the presence of the ba-souls of Pe.
Eightfold writhing differences: Alternative creation myth. Eight deities both male and female having snake- and frog-heads represent the primordial darkness, invisibility, inertness and nothingness. Known as the Ogdoad.
Amun, Amaunet: With Nun and Naunet, Heh and Hauket, Kek and Kauket -- the gods and their corresponding goddesses forming the Ogdoad.
Nomarch: Governor of an Egyptian province.
Wenen-Nofer: A form of Osiris.
Eye of Re: The motif of the Eye in Ancient Egyptian art. The Eye of Re is said to have an independent existence.
Wepwawet: Jackal-headed god associated with Anubis and known as the Opener Of The Ways.
Barge of the Earth: A feature of the Underworld perhaps representing an earlier concept of a Duat. The Barque of Re is pulled through a bull's mouth and through the spine. An underworld within the Underworld.
Hennu boat: Boat motif associated with Seker.
Khonsu: Moon-god of Thebes associated with Unas. Child of the primeval god, Amun and of his consort, Mut. Sometimes depicted as hawk-headed.
Serquet: Scorpion goddess who attacks Apopis.
Hentiu: Snake-headed gods who attack Apopis.
Spittle of Neith: see Neith, Apopis.
Herakhiti: The form of Horus seen on the horizon.
Harmachis: Horus of the Great Sphinx at Giza.
Horus of Behdet: Horus in the form of a winged disc.
Sothis: The star, sirius, assimilated to the goddess, Isis.


CHAPTER ONE
[The mummy, the pharaoh Unas and the city of Sais, spirit-forms and the Underworld, Seth and the death of Osiris.]

Hor, gatherer of oils, priest of Montu, opener of the gates of heaven in Luxor, son of Ankhori and son of Karem; Hor, at one with Horus and Thoth, enshrined with Atum and carried to the cemetery with the Apis Bull; Hor stood silent in the dark corner.

And the light came from the moonbeams on harnesses and scarabs, on the remains of eels, crocodiles, the fish dead from the Nile; on jars of viscera from the city of Sais -- the light on the cartonnage where the occasional visitor might stand. And there were moonbeams that once moved with the rise of the Nile -- in green -- with weeds flowing in the smallest mud estuaries where birds and insects circled for succour and moved in the mud-filled way; where sands abraded stone faces and other features -- the largest features of pediments at Thebes -- where these grains settled taking with them small impressions to be later distilled, made the essence of every recorded word -- in reed-bed estuaries and culled by tired hands, by arms burned with the finer speckles of water heated by bright rays of the sun nearly straight overhead -- the ancient sun of changed green plants moving and always decaying into upright remnants. And the moonlight had made unaccustomed movement through the wrong passages built for the sun: discordant, moving over the smoothed inner structure of temples of stone, warmed and cracked by rays failing in their way too but exciting the other features not dreamt of and only apparent at certain times and in places whose sanctity might be disturbed, caught at some further moment and transformed into the slight tremor of other movements of figures and faces perhaps never seen.

In the corridor the moonbeams passed through cabinets -- to the first five-stringed harp, of wood from the hottest forests eaten by termites, eaten by the slow passage of water down twisted stems moving in the slight breeze from openings overhead; fashioned in great heat -- by bending under water, under sun and the compression of great weights, painted by captive hands occasionally supplicating, submitting certainly, and motioning their efforts and all forms of appeasement, the grief of distorted lives and the reflection instead of sunlight on smooth surfaces.

The harp might then sound.

The sounding chord would spread through temples and to fields and over waterways and into small copses in bright sunlight to where sands might reach further still -- with wave motions -- with the gentle lift of palm leaves. The chord: more easily heard -- by attendant figures dressed in white, moving towards stone structures carrying lamps, precious metal, the tokens of belief.

Hor, bringer of light. Hor enclosed, wrapped and dried, bound in the form of a final agony. Penetrated, scoured, reamed and bruised, broken. Hor, made permanent and the sentinel of nights and days: Hor, guardian, calculator, collector; the singer of melodies beyond understanding, beyond belief and hope.

The rising hope which all accept but only becomes true each moment, Hor -- illuminated, preserved, made the image of deep, violent, heated movement beneath the soil; Hor, affected by movements of sun, stars, the moon -- Hor, the preserver.

* * *

The largest image in a landscape of forms, rising vertically towards the sun. In each corner the greatest ideas conceived hopefully: the expression of pain; the motions of stars described -- and the way, too, light reflects singly from bubbles and droplets. Perpetual, penetrating rich wood and stone buildings. The city.

Compounded, heaped upon, bound up -- the repository of all manuscripts, tallied records, offerings, notes of inventory; the calculation of mass, grain and water reserves, of craftsmen and the engagement of the greatest forces; of adventures and battles; the flow of the Nile over many summers.

There is anxiety about the cost of jade, ivory, camphor, salt; there are the arrivals of plagues and movements of great bodies of water which flow over all lands unequally, which move between islands and wear at rocks and small steps set into temples -- and at toll houses, statues to Horus; the sun-god, Re; the great pharaoh, Unas -- Unas, himself.

And there is the victim of these nights in palaces, moving between pillars, draperies: in the dark, only the glint of precious metal visible -- and listening all the while. Listening to hushed voices and to the sounding of the harp, voices moving through all tones solicitously, too faint to be heard, too high to be listened to and changing all perceptions with fear and the awareness of whispers.

But whispers were louder than words and filled the available space. With these sounds lesser kings might tremble and the high of the land break with accustomed ritual, give way to tremors which might spread through the valley, move over mud flatlands, disturb village life and echo in wells and fields.

Through courtyards first and from one chamber to the next, what Unas moved resounded: guards lowering their heads, weapons falling from their hands.

And dark night birds would take flight.

* * *

The moon shifted. Light in the corridor caught the corner where in a busy passageway an occasional visitor might stand, pause, draw out the moment till it became the dry ages of wind-blown sand, the periods when even the path of the sun might change. The visitor knowing all these things would have no need to depart but would float silently on, would pass cabinets and amphorae, move in silence into the air.

But the air would resound and all the hopes and pain of a thousand lives might be assembled and each be made visible to the visitor over fields and ice-sheets. Such visions breaking all accustomed bounds would record dreams of empires. Princes would be brought to account. All that Hor once knew could then become evident and the image of a man would be brought forcefully together. It would be forged as the dreams of Hor had been formed with moments in summer.

Yet other forms surrounded Hor, circled at every possible moment and gestured where brighter paths might move to left and right and suggested all types of action. These forms might call out as if to be heard and form weak links among themselves. Such vortices cutting themselves off would circle ever more slowly and enter other states completely.

Not every moment lived by Hor would remain accessible, however, and the struggle to reach all would consume time completely. In this way, Hor's life could be entered and the whole would become an effort pursued through centuries. What marked him out could only be such efforts entered gladly, pursued exhaustively and which acted as an aid to others of his kind.

Hor, beset by scarcities; dissembler -- Hor, who might survive attacks from small burrowing animals, Hor -- alive!

* * *

Flee! From the disturbance of birth and death; of lives spent comfortably and made the essence of beauty. Of lives regulated -- children growing happily, and rewards expected confidently.

Hor's vision was constricted over great distances. There were memories of the efforts of inhabiters of bright crystal -- there were fragments of light refracted and broken up, culled from all places equally, understood partially and only assembled in tears by great striving through long years.

There was the sight, through grass of stones on a river bed: distanced, interrupted and made the subject of anger and remorse. The delicate emotion of a child in agony, the recitation of virtues unrecognised, of pain endured silently and never the subject of concern.

Such hope which might surface only gradually and be recognised partially, inhabited the rarest corners in bright days: dark regions such as the spaces between leaves which attract parasitic life. Imagining these would cause tremors and small movements in the available light.

Light which passes through crystals and is favoured by these figures -- massed guardians of dreams, the shining custodians dressed in white, translucent, given to the encouragement of every form. Descending, swooping in flight with circles of winds and leaves of summer.

Such figures approach every point and drop scented flowers and aid their rise through uprushing air.

Flowers might carry Hor towards ice and realms undreamed of, these would be delicate moments preserved in centuries.

They rise higher. They rise in Sais, the city which is where bright lights flicker, arising out of nothing; growing, moving. Such sparkles are reflected and changed -- in tunnels, in dwellings, in narrow streets where offerings are made, whispers heard, and the threat spreads outward as the sounding harp is moved.

Oh, city of imagining, glittering in bright sunlight! The people move in wide thoroughfares -- always with the awareness of whispers -- and there are faces shimmering on open water, there are movements of leaves reflected from surfaces of metal: the closed and intricate paths of collected light, moving between remote regions in distant buildings of the city -- merging, refracting, and carrying images composed of every variation possible in the city of light.

The people in this labyrinth, meeting and giving favours, rising and toiling, would feel a single distinct aim. And many had tried to record this hope and had never met with success, had fallen short at the most important moment when all such desires had become fused and perfected.

The representative in full sunlight, to become hopeful, would be carried up, carried through streets with sounding horns, harps, tympani; be welcomed, ushered and celebrated with processions of warriors, adherents, girls, beasts and harvests of fruit and grain.

Initiates would wail, speak in low whispers and resolve secrecy among themselves.

For each of many lives there would be baskets of fruit, corn, gold and emeralds -- and essences and oils which Hor had gathered from villages in estuaries, from the changing merchants and the money-lenders, from vessels tied to jetties and plying across hot seas and vessels meeting dangerous currents and the attacks of strangers.

Each boat, brought up short by the grapples of long cables, would be threatened by heavy rams and then would float silently as unknown figures boarded, broke casks and chests open, moved urns and incense jars; stabbed, slashed and conquered every traveller, took every prize.

And the oils would be from Persia, India and Mesopotamia and would have been carried through deserts. At other times traders would be found dying beneath desert rocks, and by houses with burdens and beasts standing nearby.

There would be some to offer victims water and there would be others who would be forever unable to make such a gesture. And the soldiers who could prevent these things would turn their faces from such anguish, might never report any sudden deaths and could readily take their prizes wherever they might be found -- and thus they gave no accounting, left nothing to chance and in this way continued to prosper.

* * *

Hor, in the corridor, erect and your recollections and your desires separated.

The final priestly problem. Of truth, of the fearful outcome to follow death and the records in the tombs of the pharaohs to be reconciled. Oh beauty, and the names of the guardians of the Duat, the Underworld: doorkeepers; the Maidens of the Hours; gods and the enemies of the gods must be spoken. In each text the guides, the last gift of the pharaoh -- and in the Book of Caverns, of Gates, of The Two Ways, of Night and Day, of the Am Duat itself are truths for the pharaohs, truths for each vision. The completed images must then merge and the faceted justice, the truth, will be apparent on each examination:

Oh, we know the journey of Re in the night -- it is the Book of Gates.
Oh, we know the journey of Re in the Underworld -- it is the journey of the Book of Am Duat.
Oh, we know the journey of the Book of Caverns and of the texts in the pyramids, in the coffins, on the wrappings of the dead.

These journeys in one, and at each cavern a single part of the truth. Descending down passages at Rosetjau, gate of the Underworld, it is possible to see each juncture described in these books. The vision is of journeys which interchange. A myriad alternatives existing. Priestly truths united which differ every time.

The journey each night described; and the tales of the travels fragment and recombine. In the mind the truthful fragments glisten. These gifts, the journeys for the pharaoh: every combination of the night-time passages. The journeys which bifurcate, which spread outward: these are combinations and possibilities each for Hor to lay bare.

For the pharaoh, all routes, passages, paths to be present: the gift, the gift of all truths to be made plain. The path of the solar barque from every different view. All truths thus exist and the alternatives spread outward, forward and into the shadows.

And the journey of Hor may form in the night, in the night of the ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth.

Hor, the body: the khat. Hor, the spirit too: the ka, the ba and the akh -- the three forms.

Hor, preserved and wrapped, gilded -- the khat of thousands of years -- eyes fixed, the amulets and scarabs protecting hope, while all about there is the movement of the double in life -- the ka -- the spirit subject to gifts and offerings and the tomb-dweller in a land of the night. The ka calls, calls towards the fluttering sound of the bird rising -- the ba -- spirit of Hor ascending in the air: the movement of vortices in the upper air.

These spirit-forms and hope: souls of man, souls of the son of Ankhori and son of Karem.

To the akh, transforming principle: light, element of spirit and that which shines, shines; which reaches the sun. The akh of Hor, spirit-form, will take up each appearance required. The divine soul of Hor, unshaped, pure spirit, the changing form.

* * *

The calf which bleats cries out in pain and the knife cuts deep. The forelimb separates, is torn from its side, is carried by the white-robed priests towards the table of offerings and the implements for the Opening of the Mouth.

Oh, Hor, your khat in its windings, the newly-dead, the grieved for, the loved form preserved, the priest himself prepared. The perfumed wax upon the head, the lotus above the face -- and the light slants gently over the tomb chapel. The pyramid-roof of the tomb chapel and the stele in front of it -- upright and casting a long shadow.

From afar the sem-priest approaches clad in the panther's skin and censes the offering table. Oh, the needs of the great journey; the fish and bread loaves, the wine jars and the sickles, hoes, spades and adzes and the shabti-figures who will labour in paradise: oh, will Hor live eternally in the Field of Reeds?

The most precious forms in a land of great wonders: ice and the shining grey glint of the rarest metal. Not the gold, bronze, silver or copper -- of each amulet and knife blade; the hard glint of the most precious of implements -- instead the iron, iron of the adze to open the way itself. Iron to be pressed to the mouth, the mouth to be opened: Hor's sustenance preserved.

In the form of Anubis, the jackal-headed, the priest known to Hor raises the khat of Hor -- Hor in whitened bindings, rigid as the djed-column itself.

And this column of Osiris: firm, the backbone -- stability -- the djed-column to represent the god himself. The column made vertical -- and Hor is raised upright too. The adze is brought near to the mouth and the ka of Hor and all spirit-forms of Hor then may be supported -- vortices spinning onwards -- the ka in the burial chamber and the offering chapel, the ka, simulacrum of Hor in life: the presence, arms raised and calling, calling.

And the ba which might fly across the sky to the god of the setting sun -- to Atum; and the akh -- light transforming and changed. Oh, akh of Hor: principle of all light, metamorphosis, the desired form reflected, the nature transformed, each feature the expression of the true wish!

Hor in the infinities, Hor joyful and fearful, the rightness of each gesture, the three-fold form; Hor, mouth-opened; and Osiris, Osiris ruler of a night kingdom, able to sustain all agonies peacefully -- celebrated at the lake at Sais, and in such pain -- released, drawn up, Osiris would cause Hor's elevation too: thus the long night to come from which Osiris might rise and the corn too; and the old man in the fields and the grateful nation and Khepri's ascension as the morning sun.

But in the Nile, in the casket, Osiris was to die. Buoyed up by warm water lapping, the breath becoming hard: Osiris constrained.

The god screamed.

Hands moving frantically, where no chink or fissure ran, hands reaching forward where he might stretch out: Osiris in the coffin, never more to embrace bright day!

Isis, incestuous wife, grieving at Seth's deed and forced into the air would then become the kite-bird which circles above estuaries and searches against the wind with downstroke wingstrokes -- hard -- above a night river where the sun sets, above the red river and the stars of the city and the coiling, heated air. Beneath, birds in level flight, in dark feathers. The city would then become distant, reflected, broken.

The air between wings, twisting in vortices brings the dust from a thousand pairs of feet marching -- and the sand from faraway winds where no word is ever heard and where the land grows in ridges and tumbles toward red-brown plains. The moving and flickering lights from the horizon illuminate fields and houses, the movements of animals and reflections from ploughshares. And in corners of fields and storehouses, by boundary stones where corn accumulates, Isis searches for her lord.

The land from which marvelled forms rise, the study of all forms of reeds and desert flowering plants. Culled in the day, the night, the evening when warm air rises through fronds and through thrusts of insect wings.

The mornings and mist rises over sand and the water's pebbles.

Hor
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Peter Preston
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